The Wildcats completed a successful business trip to Los Angeles over the weekend, continuing their hot start to this season. Josh Steinbach’s team improved its record to 7-2 via a 2-1 effort at the Trojan Invitational, beating Yale and Howard on Friday before falling to #20 University of Southern California on Saturday.
The first day of matches could hardly have gone better for the Wildcats, as they defeated the Bulldogs three sets to one before dispatching the Bison in straight sets. Through both matchups, the Wildcats were able to control the tempo and establish their preferred offensive style —playing almost exclusively through senior setter Emma Decker, who had 74 of the Wildcats’ 83 total assists between the two Friday contests. Decker had an especially outsized influence on the first match against the Bulldogs, when she also led her team in digs with 16, although she was trailed closely by senior libero Regan Lough’s 13. Sophomore right-sided hitter Sanaä Barnes led the team in kills on Friday with 22; sophomore middle hitter Sophia Howling—playing in her hometown of Los Angeles—led the team in blocks Friday with nine.
Despite losing only one set between the two games, the two matches were vastly different in their respective levels of competitiveness. Against the Bulldogs, the counting stats were fairly even. In hitting percentage the Wildcats led only .318 to .265 in kills, they led 62 to 57, errors 15 to 18, and they actually recorded fewer aces than the Bulldogs, trailing 9 to 6. This closeness stood in vast contrast to the second match of the day. In only three sets, the Bison almost doubled the Wildcats errors, 20 to 11, their hitting percentage was less than half that of the Wildcats, .130 compared to .295, and they had only one ace to the Wildcats’ five.
Unfortunately, on Saturday, it was the Wildcats who found themselves at a competitive disadvantage. The Wildcats could not get anything going in terms of finishing plays—their hitting percentage in the first two sets were .206 and .139, and by the time they got things straightened out with a .360 mark in the third set, things had gotten out of hand. The Trojans closed things out handily with an absurd .682 mark of their own.
The Trojan Invitational marked the third of four “tournaments” the Wildcats have scheduled before Big East play begins September 27th at Creighton. This coming weekend’s final tune-up is the Villanova Invitational in Jake Nevin Fieldhouse. The Wildcats will play Temple University on Thursday at 7 p.m. and the University of Delaware on Saturday at 7 p.m.